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NEW YORK, N. Y., June 19 TO JULY 22, 1946
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D. C.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Conference Series 91
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.
Price 35 cents
I have the honor to transmit to you my report on the International Health Conference which met in New York City from June 19 to July 22, 1946. This, the first conference to be convened by the United Nations, was the largest and most representative international health conference ever held. The results achieved fully measured up to the importance of the occasion.
The Constitution of the World Health Organization was adopted and signed by representatives of 61 nations, providing for a broader scope of activity and a potentially more fruitful program than any hitherto attempted in the field of world health.
The Conference made provision for continuing the work of existing international health agencies pending their absorption by or integration with the World Health Organization, thus assuring the development of a single international health organization which, it is hoped, will shortly become universal in scope.
An Interim Commission, consisting of the representatives of 18 governments, was established to carry on necessary international health work pending the ratification of the Constitution by a sufficient number of the United Nations to bring the World Health Organization into being.
An Executive Secretary was appointed by the Interim Commission, temporary headquarters were set up in New York, and arrangements made for obtaining funds from the United Nations, so that the Interim Commission and its staff could begin to function immediately. In view of the measures taken there need be no interruption of essential international health services, the protection to health which such services afford being of the greatest importance in this period when the world is being slowly restored to peacetime conditions.
The Conference was unique in that representatives of 64 nations— Allies, former enemies and Axis satellites, and neutrals-worked together harmoniously to produce a magna carta for health, the Constitution of the World Health Organization.
The Constitution is in advance of all similar documents in that it defines health not merely as the absence of disease and infirmity but as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being, the attainment of
which is a fundamental right of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. It gives to the World Health Organization as its objective "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health".
The Constitution and the World Health Organization which will carry out its provisions are well designed to promote close international collaboration in all matters of health. Building on foundations already laid, the Organization is expected to explore new fields and to undertake new activities designed to raise the level of health throughout the world.
We, in this country, have everything to gain from improvements in the health conditions of other countries. And it is fortunate for us that the Conference has provided means which we can easily use in helping other nations to attain better health while at the same time raising our own health standards.
Nations far advanced in health can render valuable services, through the World Health Organization, to less fortunate nations. It is perhaps not so evident that the more advanced nations, like our own, have also much to gain from international health cooperation.
Great advances in science have not been made by the scientists of a single country. Microscopic life was discovered by a Dutchman, antiseptic technique by an Englishman, the germ theory of disease and immunization by a Frenchman. More recently, we owe to other countries some of the most powerful weapons against disease which we used to good effect during the war: penicillin, the sulfa drugs, DDT, and quinacrine (atabrine). Health conditions in the United States would be far less good than they are today if we were deprived of the advances in science made by other countries. Public health throughout the world will be improved when every nation contributes to the common pool of knowledge through the new World Health Organization.
As President Truman so well pointed out in his message of welcome to the Conference, the attainment of world health depends upon the achievement of sound national health. It is obvious that cholera in any country is a menace to all its neighbors since in these days of rapid transport no country is remote from any other. It may not be so clear, but it is equally true, that high health standards in any country are of benefit to the whole world, for the economy of nations is closely linked with the health of their peoples. The troubled areas of the world-politically, economically, and socially-are those in which the health conditions are the poorest. This is true of each country as well as of the world as a whole. Good health promotes high standards of living, while disease predisposes to poverty.
The war has seriously retarded medical progress and has destroyed or disrupted the health services in many countries. It is to our interest to help in reestablishing health services in all countries, and we can give such help most economically and to the best advantage through the present Interim Commission and the future World Health Organization.
Now that fighting has ceased, it is to our interest to assist in restoring to peacetime prosperity countries and areas of the world devastated by the war. Growing international exchange of goods and services is essential to world prosperity. Little business can be done with the poverty-stricken, disease-ridden peoples in devastated territories. It is in the world's interest and in our own to rehabilitate such territories and their peoples as rapidly as possible.
The world recognizes our position of leadership in the field of health. It expects us to live up to our responsibilities. By participating actively in international health work we should make known our methods, techniques, and products. The demand for American skills, materials, and ideas will be enhanced by our international health work.
The World Health Organization is expected to carry forward and to expand the work previously carried on by the League of Nations in the development and maintenance of international standards for drugs and biological preparations. This will have important advantages for the drug and biological industries in this country which are prepared to supply other countries with products of high quality and potency.
In times when rapid transport was far less developed than it is today, we were unable to prevent bubonic plague and typhus fever from gaining a foothold in this country. At present the only way to safeguard this country from these and other pestilential diseases is to develop, by means of the World Health Organization, effective controls in the areas abroad where they flourish.
It was evident during the Conference that other nations held in high esteem the achievements of this country in the field of health. The Conference put its seal of approval on our basic aims and ideas by adopting a Constitution for the World Health Organization closely resembling plans developed by our Government after months of study. Our leadership, guidance, and support are needed to insure the success of the World Health Organization. The field of health is one in which we can collaborate readily with other countries. Success in this work will not only be of benefit to our own people and to other nations, but may well be helpful in paving the way for closer international cooperation in other more difficult fields.